The Death of Jesus, His Entering into Sheol, and End of the ages
|[Type the document subtitle]|
|Ghattas B Khoury
The Death of Jesus, His Entering into Sheol, and
Eschatology of the Syriac Tradition
The meditation on the end of man does not have a simple explication. The Church, through her long history, has developed her meditation in death and life to come through gate of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The theology of life after death is an act of faith of a true meditation on death and life of waiting for the coming of the Groom, Jesus. The mystery of death is the mystery of the birth and life of every human being. God, who gives life, knows its mysteries and the end of every human being. The mystery Death of Jesus and His resurrection has resolved the mystery of death and life after death. The faithful have to proclaim their faith and meditate through the experience of Jesus through the Creed of the Church who has received through the Apostles and the tradition of Saint Paul when he says: “ I handed onto you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins, that he was buried and raised (1 Cor.15: 3-7). The Kerigma, the basis of our faith is summarized by three facts: Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection. The Universal Church has developed different tradition. For examples, the Latin Tradition has developed the theology of the cross and a special devotion to the wounds of Jesus: his Sacred Heart, the Station of the cross, the devotion to merciful Father. The Byzantine Church glorifies the resurrection of Jesus as the powerful reach his glory seated at the right of the Father. They developed the Theology of Divinization. The Syriac Church, that is considered the continuance of the first community founded by the Apostles in Jerusalem, developed a special Theology of the Descent into Sheol. The Maronite Church, in particular, emphasizes the Christ ‘s entrance into Sheol. Thus she has developed a special spirituality of the life to come and meditates on Jesus and humility. Holy Saturday is the Major feast of the Mystery of Christ’s Humiliation and Triumph over death. The Rite Holy Saturday and the Rite of Peace on Easter Sunday are connected with His Triumph over Death. With this spirituality, the Maronite Church remembers the faithful departed during the year according to the descent into Sheol on Holy Saturday. According to the Syriac tradition, Jesus Christ had the experience of humiliation by his death and was raised to enter his glory. He entered Sheol and released the Righteous and Just from the beginning of creation until his coming. The Syriac Fathers have given a special importance to the burial of Jesus and his rest during the Great Sabbath.
I- the Great Saturday in the Maronite Church:
Jesus entered the world of the dead under the earth. The evangelists never mention this theme, One place in the New Testament, in the Epistle of Saint Peter which mentions: “ For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh. He was brought to life in the spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison.” (1 Peter 3:18-19).
Iconography in the Syriac Tradition has often illustrated the descent into the abyss by representing Christ holding Adam by his hand and leading him out of the tomb. Saint Ephram in his Famous Hymn of Light, proclaiming: ” His Glory shins upon the world and enlightens the very depths of the Abyss. Death is annihilated, night has vanished, and the Gates of Sheol are broken.” (The hymn of Light, Maronite office III. Diocese of Saint Maron, Brooklyn NY, 1985 pp 36). This longing for the visit of the departed is figured in the prophecy of Ezekiel. The prophet has a vision of the dry bones and how the spirit of God revived these bones, “O my people I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people I will put my spirit in you that you may live . . . ”(Ezekiel 37: 1-14). The Spirit of Jesus came over the prisoners of Sheol to give them life. Syriac Spirituality has a well-developed theme of the descent into Sheol. Jesus emptied Himself to die on the cross and go down under ground to the place of the dead, Sheol, according to the Jewish Tradition of the Old Testament. Sheol is the place of death; Satan has power over it. He established his castle his or her, his fortress, no one could destroy it. By the Humility of Jesus of Nazareth as one who enters under the power of death. By his entering he expelled the smelling of death and the darkness of Sheol. The Manifestation of Jesus of Nazareth at the Jordan River is an allusion to the fright of the inhabitants of Sheol. The righteous and just from Adam to Christ’s baptism, were happy because their captivity was at an end. According to the Syriac poet St. Jacob of Sarugh the descended into the waters, to go down and look for Adam, the fair image. Adam is the lost pearl for whom Jesus goes down into Jordan or Sheol to save. (Killian McDonnell, Worship, 69:98-109 The Baptism of Jesus and the Descent into Hell, March 1995).
Great Saturday, or Saturday of Light, and Annunciation Saturday are different names for this exceptional Day in the Liturgical Year. The Church lives the sorrow and the suffering of the death of the groom. The living one, who was buried in the grave, entered Sheol like the other departed. Christ entered into the world of death. The Church is living the Event waiting for him to overcome death. Taking their dead from Great Saturday all the Eastern Churches remember their faithful departed on Saturdays. (Sr. Marcelle Hadaya in Saturday of Light, Saturday of Annunciation, Liturgical Year, Kaslik – Lebanon 1988).
In the Maronite office of the Great Saturday, Sheol is considered as the kingdom of Satan. Christ entered Sheol to annihilate it and release humanity from the prison and to show that, the Incarnation concerns all time, history and all places especially the place of the dead. Sheol is the place of the departed; it was shaken by the Act of the Redemption. More than that, redemption is for the living and the departed as well as for all future generations. In the Office Holy Saturday, the act of salvation uses poetry to express the reality of the incarnation and redemption of Jesus Christ. The prayers are a commentary from the Old Testament. The description of the Death of Jesus, his burial and his descent into Sheol by the Syriac Fathers used the figures of the Old Testament. It would profit as to study the meanings of the descent into Sheol with commentary of some of the prayers.
In the introductory prayer for the feast of Great Saturday, the Church calls Jesus the column of fire or Light (Exodus 13:21-22): This expression is from the Old Testament. Jesus is the pillar of Light like the pillar of fire that led Israel during their Journey. Jesus is this pillar of Light who leads us to the Kingdom of God. This pillar entered Sheol, the place of the dead, and the castle of Satan who attracts all human being from Adam until the coming of the Messiah. They call Sheol, the devoured of the generations. Jesus turns upside down its ramps and uprooted its foundations. He raised the dead. (Abi Khalil Rachid, L’Office de la Semaine Sainte selon la tradition Maronite tome II, Paris, 1995. pp 311).
Jesus the new Sun of Justice succeeds in enlightening Sheol the candles as which were extinguished by His Death, Jesus enlightened the bones of the departed. The all-powerful Jesus has a power to illuminate our darkened obscurities. He is living one and the source of life. He is dead according to the flesh. His humility led him to Sheol. His presence shows life among the dead. His burial announced to the dead their hope in life and resurrection. Jesus of Nazareth in his humility, accepted laying down his life over the dust on the head of the old humanity, Adam. His death was to raise humanity by his resurrection. What happened in the descent to Sheol? Dead was terrified, when Christ entered. The bones of the dead were shaken and rejoiced when they smelt the aroma of Christ. Usually one smells the odor of death in places of death. Jesus in his death, his aroma expelled the odor of death to extend his aroma among the faithful departed. This idea is from Saint Ephram of in his hymn by saying: “ in the place of dead which blows a mortal odor, the one who brought life extended his perfume everywhere, the perfume that gives life to the Sheol. (Cf. Brock, The Eye, of Light p 288).
In the Syriac tradition, the Fathers have developed the theme: “ the sting of sin is death” according to Saint Paul (1 Corinthians’ 15:56). Adam represents human beings from the first man, until the coming of Christ. Jesus abolished death by his death. He entered the deep places where death is powerful. He released them from the slavery of Satan and brought them into His Paradise full of splendor. Therefore, before Christ, human beings became dust in the Sheol. They were under the yoke of Satan. Christ by his bounty and his mercy came to save, to restore the image of Adam. By his incarnation and his death Jesus achieved the plan of salvation. Syriac tradition describes this as economy of Salvation. The visit to the prison of death is a major act, the Righteous and Just have been waiting his coming to enter with himthey may enter into the Paradise.
Jesus, by his descent to Sheol, proves that He is the Lord of the Living and the Dead. He has the power to give life to those in the flesh (The book of the Holy Week, Office of the Night first Station p. 312). He is the hope of all who rest under the earth, the righteous and just of the Old Testament has hope. Jesus confronted Sheol and death considered as persons who have power over all human beings. Saint Paul speaks of the resurrection of Jesus Christ saying: “ Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O Death is your sting.” The Syriac Translation is “ Where O Sheol your victory.” Death and Sheol two enemies conspired against human beings after the fall of Adam. Therefore, Satan is the agent of the two great enemies.
Jesus in his life triumphed over agents of the most powerful enemies. When he started to expel demons, it was the end of the power of death. (Mark 5: 1-20). The beginning of the debate was the declaration of the Kingdom of God by the coming of the Messiah. The preaching of Jesus was: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel. The first miracle according to Mark is the expelling of a demon. The unclean spirit shouted: “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? .” The plan of Jesus of war and the destruction of the Kingdom of Darkness is like what has happened at the Alamine when the Allies of the World War II won the first battle. The end of the fourth Rich began but the achievement was, when the allies entered Berlin. Jesus by his humility in order to destroy the “Kingdom of Darkness” had entered it and destroys their places. This is the meaning of Holy Saturday in the Syriac tradition: the pillar of light, Jesus Christ swallows death, when he entered to Sheol.
Christ’s confrontation of death started after his Baptism in the Jordan River, when Jesus went to the Desert of Judas to have the experience of the Desert like his people in the Old Testament. After that Jesus started his ministry in Galilee by declaring the coming of the Kingdom of God. ” The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Gospel.” (Mark 1: 14-15). With the announcement of the Gospel Jesus expelled the devil by rebuke the unclean spirit. (Mark 1: 21). The last battle was the death of Jesus, entered the Palace of Satan and destroyed his kingdom.
The Syriac Church emphasis the Peace coming from the One who entered the Abyss and gave peace to the righteous the just who were living in Sheol.
In the Second Station of Night Saturday’s Prayer, the “Hossoyo “ (Prayer of forgiveness) has a commentary of Matthew 27:52-53: “ and suddenly, the veil of the Sanctuary was torn in two from to the bottom, the earth quaked, the rocks were split the tombs opened and the bodies of many holy people rose from the dead. These after His resurrection came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to a number of people.” The event is important because Jesus by His Cross-uprooted the malediction of the head of our race and by his death we are sure that his resurrection will affirm our resurrection (Office of the Holy Week, Saturday night Second Station pp 315).
In the third Station, the “ Hosoyo” explains the prophecies of the Old Testament such as the sign of Jonah that was prefigured by a whale (Jonah 2:1) and a lion’s whelp; stands over his prey. (Genesis 49:9). O Lion’s whelp you stand and slept like a fable. You are represented by an “ Out of the eater what is eaten, and out of strong came what is sweet.” The thief recognized a heavenly king and he heard that: “ In truth I tell you, today is with me in paradises” (cf. Luke 23,43).
The Hosoyo continues the expression of the meaning of death in poetry:
The Sheol has suffered deeply as the prophet said.
By your burial, it was destroyed with its foundations
You entered as guilty and it swallowed you.
You emptied his inside and stripped his treasuries.
By that you realized that word: “ Death, where is your victory?
Death was, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
According to the office of the Great Sunday, the Maronite Church exalts the memory of the decent into the place of death. It is a basic triumph over the Satin at his castle of death and released all the Righteous and Just from Adam until Christ. The act of the entrance into Sheol is the great battle and destruction of the sting of sin in the place of the dead.
The Syriac Tradition continues to express its faith according to its biblical roots. Unusual in this Church is offering of prayer to the Son not the Father as is unusual in other prayers. Her prayers are a meditation on the passion of the Son. Holy Week is a major time to live in the depths of the meaning of the sorrowful time of Jesus. It is a precious time to live the acts of salvation, especially in the Third Station of Holy Monday of the Midnight prayer. The Church celebrates the Arriving to the Harbor of Holy Week. Through the reflection of this ceremony we enter the salvation of the Lord after a journey through the Holy Lent and the faithful arrive in Holy Week:
Lent has been achieved. The Church enters to the harbor of life. The Church sings glorious songs because our souls are cleaned from all remnants of sins (Maronite Hasho pp 41-42). In the end of the week the last prayer is the Prayer of forgiveness that is the achievement of our participation to the Mystery of Christ to enter the Easter Sunday and celebrating the Day of Peace.
II the Rite of Peace in the Maronite Church and the theme of the descent to Sheol:
Did the Maronite Church have an Eater Vigil for baptism of the Adult? The name of the week after Easter is called: “The week of Hawareen” probably because of the baptismal robes of those whom they baptized at the Easter Vigil. They continue their celebration with the white robe until New Sunday, when they take off the baptismal robes to start their ordinary life by proclaiming Jesus “ Lord and God “ The Faith of the Church through the proclamation of Saint Thomas on Sunday. There is no place for baptism of ritual of peace; the exaltation of the Cross-during the Divine Liturgy “Qorbono” The time of baptism is Epiphany. The Baptismal theology is Synoptically Tradition it has not the meaning of death and resurrection. The candidate (usually a child) imitates Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan River. We do not know the date of the end of the Pauline tradition of Baptism. Probably after the invasion of the Islam. It was forbidden to baptize converted. Baptism only for the children of Christians. In the Ritual of Peace in relation to the Great Saturday, Jesus established true peace when he came back from the Sheol.
On Easter, a white sheet on the cross represents the resurrected Jesus. This Cross-is used for blessing during the Holy Week, what was once buried on Holy Friday with flowers is now exalted and adored. The empty cross with the white Ruben represents the triumphant Lord coming from Sheol.” By his resurrection he has granted joy to heaven and earth” (The Maronite Liturgical Year III, Diocese of Saint Maron USA 1983. p 7)
The savior reconciled the heights (heaven) and depths (earth and Sheol) by the blood shed for us on the cross. Jesus came from the womb of the earth to establish the definitive peace. Christ completed the act of reconciliation through his death and resurrection and gave us His peace coming from his triumph over Sheol the last Battle at the Castle of Death and Satan whose kingdom he destroyed to establish peace. (Review 2 Corinthians 5: 17-19 and Collisions 1:12).
The ritual uses two Words “Shalam” & “Aman” Peace & tranquility. The meaning of the words is close. The first word of the triumphal Jesus to his disciples: “Peace be with you.” He is the source of peace and love. According to John Jesus promised his disciples when he said: “ Peace I give you, my peace I leave with you” in the “ Hosoyo “ Jesus is considered is the source of peace: He saved Noah from the flood and through a dove with an olive sign of the end of wrath (Gn 8:11) the same one who opened a way through the sea for the Hebrews and strengthened their steps through the water (Exodus 14:10-30). The same one who greeted Mary through Gabriel and promised peace to humanity (Luke 1:26-38). He sent a greeting of peace to the shepherds (Luke 2: 8-14). He calmed the raging see and removed fear from their hearts (Mark 6:47-51). In the Upper Room, Jesus gave peace to the disciple before his trial and death on the Cross (John 14:37). Finally Jesus gave the practical by his resurrection from the dead. He gave the Apostles a real peace, when He stood at the upper Room saying to them “ Peace be with you.” He released them from their hopeless and despaired after the tragedy of Holy Friday.
The Prayer of the Perfume, the minister says: we pray to let Jesus who entered into Sheol and destroy the power of death by his death. He gave peace to those who were living in Sheol may He show mercy to the departed and who died will hope to great resurrection to eternal life.
During the procession a special Hymn is sung. Two strophes mention the triumphant Jesus who came from the Sheol to proclaim peace:
The prophet asked,
“ Whose Son is this who has risen in glory
From the grave and escaped corruption?
Who is this who has risen from the dead?
And saved himself from the nether world?
By his resurrection, he has vanquished death
And has given us life”
Come let us cry out to him together,
“ Praise to you, O Lord.”
Alleluia! Accept our service!
On Sunday, death has been conquered and Satan overpowered.
On Sunday, Our Lord has risen from the grave
And given life to the world.
On Sunday, peace has appeared
To those who live at enmity
And good hope showered on those
Who lay in the tombs?
On Sunday, the disciples have rejoiced
For they have seen the son.
They gathered and cried out to him in the upper room,
“Praise to you, O Lord.”
Alleluia! Accept our Service!
#######After the procession, the main celebrant blesses the four corners of the earth by the triumphal Cross to give the peace of the Father the tranquility of the Son and the reconciliation of the Holy Spirit.
The members of the congregation come to adore the cross and take a flower while the choir sings a hymn that of is a commentary of the event of the resurrection and hope to have peace coming from the triumphal Jesus who destroyed the power of Sheol:
Look and see!
Sheol is destroyed, death is ruined,
And resurrection has conquered.”
The apostles went and saw.
The mighty one stormed Sheol
And conquered death.
He entered Sheol and destroyed it.
The ritual of Peace and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is the great ceremony of the Triumphant Jesus Christ who destroyed the place of death the Sheol by his humble weapon the Cross. After that the Cross-is exalted as a Symbol of Jesus Christ. No more we do have the Crucified during the Season of Resurrection. The white rubin represents the white shroud. He is not here. His place is not at the tomb among the departed. He entered into His glory.
Great Saturday continues to have an impact over the Maronite tradition and every Saturday during the Ordinary Season we remember the Faithful Departed. Eschatology is based on the descent of Jesus to Sheol. Therefore they concentrate the prayer on Christ who had the experience of humanity. He shares our humanity sufferings and death. He had the experience of humiliation. Therefore most of the prayers are offered to Christ not like the other prayers unusually are offered to the Father through the Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the hope of resurrection of Jesus Christ after his experiences (conform Chorbishop Hector Douehi, Book of Ginnazat Diocese of Saint Maron -USA 1988).
III Eschatology in the Maronite Funerals:
The experience of Jesus in his descent to Sheol impacts the Eschatology of the Maronite Church. Christ on Holy Saturday was barrying and lived with the dead. He entered to the nether world, the kingdom of darkness and death to the place of tears and suffering. His descent came because of his mercy toward human kind. His compassion leads him to go down and frees those who were waiting. He is the Son of God You descend to Sheol and visited the dead in their graves.”
The Maronite Church uses different words in Syriac to express the theology of death and life after death. For example: the verb “Shchab” means to sleep. Death than is sleeping in the grove. The person is waiting for his resurrection by Christ. The words “Aned,” “Dmach “ and “Aabar,” express the continuity of life after death and the waiting for the day of resurrection. The expression of Christian death is the Faithful Departed. For those who left this life, there is assurance that they are living after death.
Death is God’s decision, by him the dead will rise again. The person departs from his family parents, friends to the other world to special places. (Pere Elie Khalife, The
Destiny of Man after Death, in the Maronite Theology, Christian Funerals, Kaslik, Lebanon, 1990.).
Death is sleeping: Many texts consider death is as a time of sleep and rest. The dead person sleeps under the ground soul and body according to St. Paul (1 Th. 4:13). The first death is sleep, which is ended by the day of resurrection. The first one is not as tremendous as the second death which comes after the first awake. It is horrible because of the separation from the life of God, the source of his life. This prayer clarifies the analogy of death and sleep: “the night authorizes over those who are sleeping, the same death authorizes over the dead. Sleep is annihilated awaken, the dead by resurrection. Come kneel before Christ our king who annihilates his power.” Resurrection is the only hope to rise from the sleep of death. It a sleep one day Christ will raise the sleepers. He promised by saying: “ who believes in me will have the everlasting life” (John 5:24).
Platonic philosophy believes that, human being is a unity of soul and body. While the Bible believes in the unity of the human being, believes in the flesh and the spirit. The tendency of the flesh and the tendency of the spirit. The spiritual man is powerful because he overcomes temptations and sin. The other is weak. According to the bible the whole human being is under the rule of death but with Christ he will rise from the dead. From the corruption to a transformation through the resurrection. The Maronite Church according to the tradition continues s to explain the rule of death according to the New Testament.
The Syriac tradition through Aphrahat, Saint Ephram and the others contemplated the reality of death and the life after death. For example Aphrahat considers that death is to be unfeeling sleep of souls until the resurrection. They dream until the resurrection. It is similar to natural dreams although the night is long, time goes fast and they awake at the dawn of the resurrection. The wicked souls have bad dreams there nights are long and they will rise for condemnation and the second death. The source of the joyful dreams is the Holy Spirit. ( Les Peres Syriacs V I& II Paris, 1907).
Saint Ephram considers death to be sleep for the soul until the day of resurrection. Death is for rest. Ephram considers the impossibility to enter the paradise without the body. The soul will wait to one day of resurrection to enter the Paradise:
“ That blessed abode
Is in no way deficient,
For that place is complete and perfected
In every way,
Enter their alone,
For such a state it is in everything deficient
In sensation and consciousness;
But on the day of Resurrection
The body, with all its senses,
Will enter in as well, once it has been made perfect.”
(St Ephemera, Hymns on Paradise, translated by S. Brock Crestwood, NY, 1990)
The Sheol will be full of the deceased. Only the righteous and just will rest in the bestrews until the day of resurrection:
Thus in the delightful mansions
On the borders of Paradise
Do the souls of the Just
And righteous resides.
The bodies they love
So that, at the opening
Of the Garden’s gate,
Both bodies and souls might proclaim,
A midst Hosannas,
Blessed is who has brought Adam from Sheol
And returned him to Paradise in the company of man
The Syriac tradition considers that death is to enter Sheol as a temporary settlement for all the departed with a hope of rising at the dawn of resurrection (p287). Death is like seeds under the soil until the dawn of resurrection. The grave is similar to the Sheol according to the Syriac Fathers. Their belief is in the unity of the human being. Man is totally soul and totally body. Death is the person in the grave. Death is time of hope and waiting for the dawn of resurrection. (P.279).
The Hymn of incense summarizes the eschatology of the faithful departed who slept in hope to rise from the dead. We remember that person who slept is a member of the living body and blood. They believe one day they will rise from their tombs to give them reward”: that which eyes have not seen, neither ears have heard nor ever occurred to the human heart,” (`1 Corinthians 2: 8). This song is reminiscence of death through the history of salvation. God promised and he will fulfill his promises through Jesus who raised from the dead. God revealed that to Moses and Jesus affirmed that Our God, is God of the Living: the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob not the God of the dead (Exude. 3:6 & Luke 21:38). The revelation to Moses is a first revelation the rising to the life was obscured. In the New Testament Mary is the Ship who carried a treasure by passing the treasure is growing in her Jesus who gave life to those who were died. A great treasure in the Church those who shed their blood on behalf of Christ and the Prophets the Apostles and Mary and who slept in Hope before us. The one who slept in hope of resurrection because of the unity of the Righteous and Just from the beginning of the creation until now?
The prayers and songs, talk about the abode of life and the dwelling of rest, the paradise of joy, the place of the saints. Abode of joy, the paradise of Eden, the place of lights
In his way to the place of rest, he crosses the place of fear. The sea of fire. The angel may accompany him. The power of the evil spirits the coercion of the adversary threatens the one who has left this life. The merciful lord opened the Gates of paradise to the thief. Jesus will be merciful on the Day of Judgment.
The journey is safe because of the companionship. The bridge to cross the sea of fire is the cross of Jesus cross the weapon that used to destroy the palace of death. The mystery of the cross is also for him like a weapon in the place of fear (54). The second is baptism and the seal of the Holy Spirit. The smell of Myron the fragrant to Jesus expels the smell of death. (Review the decent to the Sheol). The body and blood of Jesus are fire against the fire of hell. They are shied to protect the passenger to the second life. The prayer says:
I have consumed your body,
Let not fire consumes me.
My eyes have touched his body,
Let them see your mercy (p. 55).
Eschatology in the Syriac tradition in particularly the Maronite, reflects on her experience through her long history, from 410 AD until now. Her founder Saint Maron has started a school of prayer and hope. She lives the experience of the descent to Sheol like her Master Jesus Christ. She is waiting for his coming to restore to establish peace in the world and to raise the departed. Her theology is the Theology of Hope. The Lord will come to save as he did when he entered into Sheol the first time. She believes the descent is repeated when the Church celebrates the Holy Mysteries of the Divine Liturgy, “the Korbono.” The same Jesus, who died, entered to the Sheol and destroyed its foundation. This entrance is happening because the events of salvation are presents. Jesus entered to the Sheol to take those who are waiting for him. The memory, Anamnesis it becomes a reel now, Epyclesis, Jesus is saving now. How is he saving? The descent to Sheol is continuing to be present. The Church invites her Groom to save not only the living but also the departed. She remembers her departed children at the altar. She believes that Christ has power to enter to Sheol and release the Faithful Departed. This is the mystery of the Great Saturday.
* The New Jerusalem Bible, Doubleday, 1990
*McDonnell, Kilian, the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan and the decent to Hell, Worship 69:98-109m March 1995.
*Hadaya, Sr. Marcelle, Saturday of Light, Saturday of Annunciation, Liturgical Year, Kaslik, Lebanon 1988.
*Abi Khalil, P. Rachid, L’Office de la Semaine Sainte selon la tradition Maronite tome III, Paris 1995.
*St. Ephram the Syriac, Hymns of Paradise, translated by Sebastian Brock, New York, 1990.
The Maronite Liturgical Year III, Diocese of Saint Maron USA 1983.
*Douehi Chorbishop Hector, Book of Ginnazat, Diocese of Saint Maron -USA 1988.
*Khalife, P. Elie, The Destiny of Man after Death in the Maronite liturgy, Christian Funerals, Kaslik, Lebanon, 1990.
1The meaning of the Cross
During the season of the Holy Cross, the Church meditates on the end of the ages and the presence of the Lord. Catholic Christians have always believed that Jesus Christ would come back to close the current period of human history in earth. The time when Jesus will return is given many names: the Day of the Lord, the Parousia, the end time, and the Second Coming of Christ.
Because the subject of the return of Jesus and the end of the ages is always a mystery that belongs to the Father, let the Father decide this end. Our duty is our readiness of his coming and the proclamation of the Good News.
From the events of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth until today, many major events happened. People always looking of the end of the age and expected the Parousia of the Lord. Many speak of the abomination of Jeremiah, Armageddon.
The destruction of the Temple was a grandiose event. They considered it as the end of the world. Therefore, we find interaction with the destruction of the Temple and the Parousia of Jesus who spoke of the agony of the people, but with hope and joy like a labor woman before the birth of the child. The darkness of this period creates hope in the hopeless situation. The sign of the Son of Man will appear on the sky most of the tribes of the earth will be glad to see a sign of hope that salvation is near.
Many would have questions what was the expectations of the Christians at that times?
Many Christians considered the death of St. James brother of the Lord, brought a curse against the Jews and the Temple. Others would be stupefied to see the enormous devastations the city the temple and the casualties among the hostages. How did the Lord ignore his people?
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews explains to the Christians from a Jewish background, how Jesus is the New Temple and the New Jerusalem is at heaven. Jesus is the New High Priest according to the order of Mechizedek.
Many would focus on the eternal Mediation of Jesus, who, through his death, changed the nature of the priesthood. From the animal oblations to the Son of God who is the real mediator between humanity and God.
Also with Saint John, the Evangelist sees in Jesus the Temple and the altar from his side living water flowed to change the nature of the desert to a fertile land. Or destroy this Temple and I will build it in three days.
Through the history many people would return to the Holy Scriptures, to see the prophecies. Unfortunately, many would be misled by the people. Many lost their faith and their hope.
Jesus talked of the appearance of his sign on the Sky by saying :” immediately , after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened , and the moon will not gives its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the power of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then the tribes of the earth will mourn , and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and glory”
Everybody would be busy to hide himself to be saved. Mostly people they do not have an answer. Only those who trusted God can observe the signs. Jesus gave the example how they behaved at the time of Noah, only Noah was occupied to be saved. The others were trapped by the flood. The faithful people are alerted people, they can see the signs of devastation, but they live with joy because their salvation is present. They will help the other to look on the sign of hope, which is the Cross of Jesus Christ. They raised their head up to see the glorious Cross of Jesus Christ. This sign would overview all the devastation of the world. Reviewing the text of the Gospel according to Matthew, the abomination of Daniel is a description of an observatory who was meditating of the words of Jesus.
Historically, the Historian Josephus was an observer with the Roman procurer, was an eye witness. He considered the event for purging the Temple from the Fanatic Zealots and the others who offended their people and mislead them. He said: “numerous false prophets deluded the people at this time.
There was another prophet came from the Country screaming and yelling day and night:” woe to Jerusalem, woe to the temple woe to the bridegrooms, the brides, and the people!”
Those who read the Book of revelation with hope, they would see the sign of glory during the persecution and recession. In the end of the Book, the Church has been put on the vestment of glory saying Marinate o come Lord Jesus
The present age has been the age of terror devastation hopeless martyrdom, scandals depression wars persecution. Also, is the age of hope courage and salvation? The Lord sent a shepherded that gave the Church a new hope that is hidden from our eyes. The Polish pope reminds us of the merciful God with that he planted hope over our souls. This shepherded is not only an intellectual Potpie but he had the experience of God his courage and his mercy.
Since September 11, 2001, the tragic event has shaken our great Country. He has been infiltrated by terrorism in the name of a merciful God. That history of terror came during the season of the Exaltation of the Cross. This Country has a special blessing through the freedom and the dignity of the person. With that the Cross has come to remind us that the Son of God freed our humanity from the slavery of sin. He reminds us of our responsibility to keep this freedom. Freedom is similar the love. In the beginning we are free but, we were surprised to be in captivity of sin. How to realize this freedom,
- Mount Armageddon (From Hebrew: הַר מְגִדּוֹ, Har Megiddo, lit. Mount Megiddo; Greek: Ἁρμαγεδών Harmagedōn, Arabic هرمجدون, Persian آرماگدن, Late Latin: Armagedōn is the site of a battle during the end times according to some sects within the Abraham religions. The term can also be used in a more generic sense to refer to any end-of-the-world scenario.
According to some premillennial Christian interpretations, the Messiah will return to earth and defeat the Antichrist (the “beast”) Satan/Lucifer/ Devil in the battle of Armageddon. Then Satan will be put into the “bottomless pit” or abyss for 1,000 years, known as the Millennial Age. After being released from the abyss, Satan will gather Gog and Magog (peoples of two specific nations) from the four corners of the earth. They will encamp surrounding the “holy ones” and the “beloved city” (this refers to Jerusalem). Fire will come down from God, out of heaven and devour Gog and Magog after the Millennium, and the Devil, who deceived them, death hell and whosoever was not found written in the book of life are thrown into Gahanna (the Lake of Fire burning with brimstone)
The eschatological toping has many difficulties to embrace for many reasons. First and foremost death of the Messiah and the destruction of the City of Jerusalem. Are two grandiose that checked the conscience of a faithful Jew who, always believes that the Messiah remains forever, and the city of Jerusalem and the indwelling of the Lord is a tower of security and protection. What happened one of them disappear what would be the reaction?
According to Matthew who would start the first draft of his Gospel, the first sign was the devastation of the Holy City. Immediately, the Author returned to the old memory that Jesus talked of the national catastrophe that swept not only the capital of the tradition but left a deep wound in the memory of the Nation. It was similar to what happened with the Assyrian envision that ended them to be exiled in Babylon.
The evangelist had in his mind many factors that accumulated to form an amalgamation of three sources, the prophecy of Jeremiah, the prophecies of Jesus and the eye witness.
The sword is outside; disease and hunger are within. Whoever is in the fields will die by the sword; whoever is in the city disease and hunger will devour.g16If their survivors flee, they will die on the mountains, moaning like doves of the valley on account of their guilt.17All their hands will hang limp, and all their knees* turn to water.H18i they put on sackcloth, horror clothe them; shame is on all their faces, all their heads are shaved bald.*19They fling their silver into the streets, and their gold is considered unclean their silver and gold cannot save them on the day of the LORD’s wrath. They cannot satisfy their hunger or fill their bellies, for it has been the occasion of their sin.20* in their beautiful ornaments they took pride; out of them they made their abominable images, their detestable things. For this reason I will make them unclean
Also he spoke of the destruction of the temple by saying:
“We are safe! We can commit all these abominations again!”?F11Has this house which bears my name becomes in your eyes a den of thieves? I have seen it for myself!—oracle of the LORD.G12Go to my place at Shiloh,* where I made my name dwell in the beginning. See what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel.h13And now, because you have committed all these deeds—oracle of the LORD—because you did not listen, though I spoke to you untiringly, and because you did not answer, though I called you, 14I will do to this house, which bears my name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your ancestors, exactly what I did to Shiloh.i15I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast away all your kindred, all the offspring of Ephraim disappeared .
Jesus and the apostles are all way favor the sincere worship in faith and truth. He and the prophet condemned the superficial worship. God of Israel prefers the contrite and humble heart than any other offering. Was Jesus conscience that his death abolishes the earthly temple and the city of Jerusalem?
That we would like to read according to the revelation what are the meaning of the end of ages and the triumphed of Christ.
From the time of the Catastrophe life has been changed. There is no place to worship and the Holy City became a ruins the end of the offerings confusion of the priesthood. Here, the Letter to the Hebrews explained too many who used to be devoted Jews; they lost this kind of worship and security. The Author explained to them that only the eternal will remain. For example, the Heavenly Jerusalem, the eternal Priest, and the New Order of the Priesthood, the Temple of Heaven, and the oblations have been changed to be the Son of God.
With Jesus, according to Mathew, Jesus was observing the leadership of Israel, the confusion in the methods of worshiping. Here he gave the parable of the fig tree, sign of the approach of the summer. The destruction is near, disrespect of the Commandments, confusion among the people, the leaders are busy to increase they fortune nobody would stop them. Similarly to the King who grasped the propriety of a poor ordinary man. Or those who: “join house to house and connect field to field. The judgment will be soon and many houses shall be in reins.” (Isaiah 5)
Jesus was a victim of that confusion like many of old days. They executed him because of his message.
Jesus, the innocent one would pay a heavy price, his reputation: a received the curse of the Cross and the death because of his revolution.
Instead to speak of death of the City and curse over the rebellious people, here there is another dimension that the old regime was failed to give peace and justice through it. What was the justice of Abraham who hated Issue and loved Jacob, or Isaac and ignored Ismail and his mother? The wrath of the Lord is a benefit for Humanity
For St Paul death of the Messiah is the death of the old regime, the old world, with its justice, to raise the Law of Jesus, the New Moses. The beatitude of the Mountain: the Poor in spirit, the meek, the pacemakers.
With his death there is something unusual happened? The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two, the earth quake rocks were split, tombs were opened ….
Here Matthew repeats what Daniel wrote:” at that time there shall arise Michael the great prince guardian of your people, it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since the nations begin until that time (Dn12:1)
During the end of the age, the Church, a new people was born in Spirit and water, those who believe in his name will be the new people, new priesthood and a new Law.
After the distraction of the Temple, the Israelite tradition has been changed to look at the radical change of the Christian religion as a way of a Jewish tradition, it became a new religion. Christ is the Savior, the oblation and the High priest, the New Temple and a new sanctuary. They started looking more to heavenly Jerusalem according to the book of revelation.
How to read the end of the ages according to the New Testament?
The confusion of the world is coming from refusing to be rescued by God. Most because of their ignorance. I have always the stuberbness of the people . they do not know . here the responsibily of proclaiming the Good News is no a challenge for them but like a fire man is coming to rescue the people who has an accident . do they refuse this help . of course not. Many times religion could be a burdensome over the people. Many times the minister would be like saint paul he is xcome to proclaim the God News . What was the pupose of Jeraiah in the Old Testament. The young prophet had an obligation to speak up of the corruption
The remedy is the reform
Oppression over the alien, the orphan the widow
Flowing other gods
At the time of confusion
Similarly,Isaiah speaks of sheding blood ignoring the orphan and the widow.
They were busy to do do evil
The Second Coming of the Lord
Before He return to his Father’s House Jesus gave his disciples two principal commandments
First Love one another as I loved you.
Second is be ready, be prepared
I would like to speak of the second commandment because of the importance it. Christianity is not just regulations and rules; it is a way of life that means the person has commitment toward Jesus Christ to live according to his will. It is similar to the covenant between husband and wife who have covenant of love. They have submission to one anther because of their love. Similarly to the Christians who live according their faith.
We are not occupied in seeking the return of the Lord and before he arrives, we are preparing his coming.
This parable speaks of surprise. The master is coming like a thief. He caught the servant by surprise.
There is no surprise for those who are prepared. In contrary the Christians are longing to see him. They are ready during their services, come Lord, Moran To.
In the coming Sundays , the parables speak of this readiness. There is no compromising in Christian faith.
This readiness is expressed by the Passover Ceremony , the people should be prepared to go and to listen. To go is to meet the Lord, and is ready to listen to his word.
This readiness is well expressed in the acts of Mary.
Jesus renewed the People of God by pouring his Spirit in their hearts to let them know by heart his commandments.
For Paul Christians should be free from anxiety that comes from the concerning of the coming of the Lord. More than that, they should be ready to fight to establish the kingdom of God “ put on the breastplate of faith and love , the helmet of hope and salvation”
Readiness is expression of sincerity of faith and commitment.
The Tragedy of the Holy City and our Christian Faith
In the days of Jeremiah (ca. 600 B.C.), the people of Judah faced difficult times. The northern kingdom of Israel was history, taken into Assyrian captivity. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had defeated Assyria, and was making his way into Judah.
The people of Judah had developed a false trust. They were placing their confidence and hopes everywhere but the place where it would have done them some good. It is through the prophet Jeremiah that the Lord condemns as useless the false hopes created in the hearts of the people of Judah by the leaders.
It is still possible today to put our hope and confidence in the wrong place. We would do well to avoid making the same critical mistake as Judah did. We read of that false trust and how the Jehovah responded to it in the seventh chapter of Jeremiah.
The False Trust of Judah
First, the people placed their confidence in the temple buildings themselves (vss. 1-7). The Lord responded, “Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’ (Jeremiah 7:4).
The people were under the impression that the mere fact that the temple was located in Jerusalem would spare the city. The Lord sent Jeremiah to the temple itself to preach that it would take genuine repentance to reverse the situation (Jeremiah 7:1-7).
Then, as now, Lord required more than rituals involving temple worship and outward piety. Repentance would mean not only true-hearted worship of the Lord, but also a change in how the people treated one another; that their dealings were to be just and honorable and without oppression.
Second, they sought to excuse their obvious sins (Jeremiah 7:8-11). Again, theirs was a false trust in that they were being led to think that they could sin and not be held accountable. “Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail” (Jeremiah 7:8). After committing transgression, they would go to the temple thinking that would absolve them: “…then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, “We are delivered!’ — that you may do all these abominations?” (Jeremiah 7:10). The Lord could see through such hypocrisy and responds by saying that this, too, is a false hope. He says, “Remember Shiloh!” – (Jeremiah 7:12).
Shiloh is where the tabernacle had stood before the temple had been built at Jerusalem, and was at that time the center of the worship unto Jehovah (Joshua 8:1). The ark of the covenant was there. Somehow, the people had gotten the idea that if the ark was physically present with them, that they were invincible. They were not faithful to the Lord in their conduct and service, but they had the “magical” ark, so they would prevail in battle against the Philistines.
They were wrong about that. It was at Shiloh where the ark of the covenant had been captured by the Philistines and the unfaithful people of Israel defeated (1 Samuel 4:10-11). It was as if they believed that the ark was like a lamp and God was a genie inside enslaved to whoever possessed the ark. That was certainly a mistake.
Jeremiah warns that God would do likewise with Jerusalem and the temple- (Jeremiah 7:13-15). That is, just as He had withdrawn His protection from Shiloh and allowed the ark to be captured, He would withdraw His protection from the temple and allow it to be captured as well. This because of Judah’s failure to heed His prophets – (vs. 13).
In His most detailed prophecy of the end time, Jesus said, “… When you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place …, then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matthew 24:15-16). What was He talking about?
The longest and most precise prophecy of the Bible, Daniel 11, recorded in advance what would occur in the empires and nations that would vie for control of the Holy Land for centuries to come. It describes, in astounding detail, rulers and other people who lived long after Daniel’s prophecy and several centuries before Christ.
For much of the prophecy these kingdoms were Syria to the north, ruled by descendants of Seleucus, one of the generals of Alexander the Great, and Egypt, ruled by descendants of another of Alexander’s generals, Ptolemy. (See “The North-South Struggle for the Middle East,” page 7. You can learn more details in a good Bible commentary or from our free booklet Is the Bible True?)
An evil ruler arisesSome sources date this to 638, ALthough Sir William Muir seems to date this event in January 637, Runciman dates it in February 638.
On a February day in the year A.D. 638 the Caliph Omar entered Jerusalem, riding upon a white camel. He was dressed in worn, filthy robes, and the army that followed him was rough and unkempt; but its discipline was perfect. At his side was the Patriarch Sophronius, as chief magistrate of the surrendered city. Omar rode straight to the site of the Temple of Solomon, whence his friend Mahomet had ascended into heaven. Watching him stand there, the Patriarch remembered the words of Christ and murmured through his tears: ‘Behold the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet.’
In his Christmas sermon of 634, Sophronius was more concerned with keeping the clergy in line with the Chalcedonian view of God, giving only the most conventional of warnings of the Muslim-Arab advance on Palestine, commenting that the Arabs already controlled Bethlehem. Sophronius, who viewed the Muslim control of Palestine as “unwitting representatives of God’s inevitable chastisement of weak and wavering Christians”, died soon after the fall of Jerusalem to the caliph Umar I in 637, but not before he had negotiated the recognition of civil and religious liberty for Christians in exchange for tribute – an agreement known as Umari Treaty. The caliph himself came to Jerusalem, and met with the patriarch at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Sophronius invited Umar to pray there, but Umar declined, fearing to endanger the Church’s status as a Christian temple.[
The Exaltation of the Cross is recognizing the power of the resurrection of Jesus that through his death, the Son of Man annihilated the power of evil and transformed the tool of his execution to a bridge that through it, he entered his glory and realized humanity from the prison of despair to the freedom of the children of God. Wherever, the Cross of Jesus there is a hope the death does not have a power over those who believe in him. Theologically, the grace of God transforms the faithful to a new creation. Instead to face death with fear, there is a hope has been planted through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Hosanna Sunday was a joyful entrance into the City of David. The disciples were amazed with the majestic temple that Herod the First started in the 20 B.C. and was dedicated in 60 A.M. unfortunately, just only 10 years the second Temple survived.
The Historian, Josephus, says: “the city derived its main glory and status from the Temple. The Temple was the sole focus of the entire nation. At one time the city received 100000 pilgrims added to 150000 to the population of the city.
Many would say that, how come Jesus was not pleased with the majestic Temple and the prosperity of Jerusalem?
The Son came to rescue the nation of Israel. He proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God expelling demons and healing the sick. Unfortunately, the response was poor. Therefore, as he drew near, he wept over the city of David saying: “if this day you only knew what makes for peace, but hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you, when your enemies will raise a palisade against you they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of visitation” (Luke 19:42-44)
This severe judgment over Jerusalem has been repeated many times with many prophets. For example, Jeremiah before him claimed the destruction of the First temple of Jerusalem. The Lord, God asked him to stand at the gate of the Temple to deliver his heartless message against it and the City. The vicious behavior against the alien, the orphan and the widow; the innocent blood and the strange gods of their desire are the source of Ruth against the People of Jerusalem. After these abominations, they came to worship the lord of Israel in the Temple. They use it for their security. The Holy Place became a den of thieves. The Prophet reminds them of the temple of Shiloh that was rejected by God because of the abominations of their fathers. They chose their destiny by waking the way of depth instead to chose life and survive.
It is not necessary to be a prophet to claim the sincerity of the words because their sign of destructions are evident like the sprouting of the fig tree is a sign of the fulfillment of the word of Jesus.
Many would say there is an ambiguity in the words is Jesus speaking of destiny of Jerusalem or of the land of the ages and his second coming?
Most of the time, we presume that Jesus is speaking of his second coming.
Jesus was clear, when He said that the end of the ages and his second coming are with the hands of the Father. The Christian has to be sincere with his faith. Whatever the condition of life his has to be confirmed and stable with his faith and hope. However, the evidence is that Jesus is speaking clergy of the destine of Jerusalem. He is referring to the Temple as a place of worship to those who are humble of hearts and innocents without sin. Unfortunately, the people were confused and mislead by their leaders and the fundamentalists. Instead to listen to Jesus, they ignored him and they crucified him. With that choose their destiny.
Actually, the story of the temple of Jerusalem is the story of every church. The Church is, where the Christians are coming a specially Sunday to worship the Lord. If the community is divided, there is no sign that the message is uncertain. For example the Church a beautiful building precious ornaments and icons; beautiful and distinctive vestments and supplies, unfortunately, this church is counting down her days. For sure her destiny is death, like the city and the Temple of Jerusalem.
God said to the People “here, then, I have today set before you life and prosperity death and doom, the blessing and the curse. Choose life then that you and your descendents may live, by loving the Lord “(Deuteronomy 30:20)
More a clear example, how good is, a marvelous house with a family, surviving without the deep love between husband and wife or children? The same thing is with a church that does not have the shining face of Jesus?
Sunday Liturgy is the time that the Christians coming to gather to enkindle the love that the Lord has given us when we were baptized. Unfortunately, many would live without this pure love. However, the good News is, always, proclaiming. The same Jesus who wept over Jerusalem would sweep over any facilely or Church. Most of the time they ignore him as Jerusalem ignored her savior. Most of the time, instead to choose life we have chosen death.
Work out your salvation with fear and tremendous
This fear its origin from the first Covenant; when the people witnessed the thunder and lighting, they all feared and trembled so they took up a position much farther away and said to Moses “ You speak to us and we will listen ; but not let not God speak to us or we shall die.”
Saint Paul reminds the Philippians to work seriously on their salvation after they received the grace from God through faith. Also, this seriousness comes from Jesus who speaks of the Kingdom of God.
This time of the Holy Cross, our eyes are gazing to see the joyful face of Jesus who entered into his glory after his death on the Cross. Paul is always has the image of the glorious Jesus who saw him in his mystical experience that has changed forever his past life. With his grace, the life of Paul is Christ. With zeal and fervent, the Apostle of the nations says:
“Though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, 8 of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, 9 to the glory of God the Father.
This hymn became in their lips to have the correct image of Jesus of Nazareth who was glorified and invites the faithful to imitate him in their lives.
Paul, early, encourages them to life a life according to their faith. They have taken it seriously. Their life became a sign from heaven to those who are living in darkness. In the end of their life they will appear before Jesus and Paul will be proud of them.
He knows only Jesus who died on the Cross for our salvation and he is the one who lay down his life to save our humanity. The price is not a cow or a sheep, but the blood of the only begotten son to release human being from his sinful past. Salvation is fee gift from God toward our humanity. He took the initiation be coming to our place to rescue us. Our duty is to respond generously and without hesitation to the acts of salvation. Without hesitation, we have to follow Jesus Christ. Yes, he loved us first, but he asks for a generous response form man.
The response is total consecration to the cause of Christ as Saint Paul says, “life is Christ”. This generous response of Saint Paul to the appeal of the call of Christ it is similar to Jesus himself who came to do the will of his Father. Only project in his life is to establish the kingdom of God.
What are the requirements to be in the Kingdom of God?
At that time the disciples 2 approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, 3 you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
This humility of the candidate to the Kingdom of God is similar to the life of Jesus Christ who emptied himself as St. Paul declared in the Famous Hymn of Kenosis.
Priority of the Kingdom of God:
Jesus gave many parables to explain the priority of the Kingdom of God over the other priorities.
“Do not store up for your selves treasures on earth, but in heaven. For where your treasure is, there, also, your heart is.” (Matthew 6:19) also He gave the Parables of the treasure found in a field and the pearl. Similarly, the Kingdom is the most precious thing could human being found.
The Apostle of the Nations expresses his gratitude by exclusive expression saying: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love God” (Corinthians 2:9).
Many are called, but few who are chosen.
When Saint Paul encourages the community of Ephesus to work for their salvation with fear and trembling, he knew how many would abuse their freedom to destroy themselves to live larcenously without control. Therefore, he gave them the parable of the athlete who does a lot of exercises to win the crown. He desires to have everybody to be saved, but a few who respond to the call. He would like to have all the crown of glory. Similarly as Jesus answer the question of salvation by saying: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, will attempt to enter but will be strong enough.” (Luke 13:23)
This reading of the Gospel explains how serious the Christian faith is. Many would say how harsh is the Bride Groom to exclude five attendants who were free to come to honor the bride.
God is always merciful but this God is just. The power of the Parable is the priority of the Kingdom of God over the whole life. The Kingdom is first then the other priorities.
First, give your heart to the lord and then, he would write his law on it and he would tell him with his love. Then, you would be a good example before the other nations.
Many times our response is poor. Many are the excuses to arrive late in the Church.
Our absence is similar to those who came to the wedding, many excuses. Remember what happened. He excluded all those who should be in the party.
The Divine Liturgy is the Taste of the Heavenly Wedding .there are a few who who come at time many have excuses and ignorance of it. It seems most of the time we do not take it seriously.
Cleaning the House, shopping, the gests the sport and traveling are more important to come to the Divine Liturgy. There is a weakness in our life. It reflects our dynamism of our community of faith. We are not living our faith with hope and joy. The remedy is to have the Lord stir up our zeal and our fervent love. We need him to send his spirit to pour his love in our hearts and to have Jesus Christ. He has to rejuvenate our hearts to have the presence of Jesus who emptied himself and glorified after his death.
More and more the image of Jesus Christ becomes clear more and more we know that the kingdom of God is at hand.
Parables of Talents
Last Sunday, The Gospel, according to Matthew, explains the necessity of readiness, to be ready to go. We remember how the Israelites in the First Passover were ready to go. This readiness is part of the ritual of the Passover. They used the Unleavened Bread to express their readiness. They would not spend time, because they would wait to have the leavening dough to prepare the bread. Similarly, Christians live the readiness to enter into the Wedding of the Lamb (Exodus 12.) In the same way, the Church is waiting, like the wise Virgins, who were invited. They were vigilant ready to welcome the Bridegroom.
This Sunday, the Gospel, according to Matthew declares how the Master of the house trusts his servants to invest his money in his absence. The context of Matthew’s Parable of the Talents deals with the influence of the Parosia of the Lord, with the continuity of His Church working to accomplish the Plan of Salvation. The Master set off on a journey. He entrusted his money to three of his servants according to their capability. Two are active. They invested the money to have double their amount. The third one was lazy. He would not take responsibility to become rich. Instead, to invest the talent, he buried it under the ground to return it to his master. In his return, the master rewards the two, and the third one was punished severally by excluding him from his house.
This parable reflects the gift of God to His Church. He trusts her to increase it by preaching the Good News all over the world. This privilege is to continue God’s plan, to transform humanity, and to join the life of God.
In the mission of the Laity, Vatican II presents the dynamism of the people of God through His grace. In this parable, the master has a plan to set his servants free. The requirement is to be industrious as he was. He entrusted to them a large amount of money to be invested. The result was pleasing, except one case. The slave retuned the same amount. The master considered that servant would not be qualified for freedom.
The heavenly Father gave humanity, His Son Jesus Christ to lift up the human race. He shares with us, the holiness of God. This Holiness is realized by Christ, and achieved by the Holy Spirit. This reality that God came to join humanity, “ not because of any upright actions we had done ourselves; it was for no reason, except, His own faithful love that He saved us”.
This free gift has to be invested by the receivers, who supposedly, to have the mind of Christ. The person, who receives this privileged gift, must follow His footsteps, and conform himself to His image, seeking the will of the Father in all things. This perfection would be revealed through the Saints in the Church History, (review: L. G. 40.)
The lazy servant is representing those, who were baptized and have first communion. They did not ad a prayer or an effort, to present to the world, the loving face of Jesus.
After his conversion on the Road of Damascus, Paul started with a new life that it is Christ as he says, “ My life is Christ.” In his letter to his disciple Timothy, Paul requested him to continue to be a good soldier of Christ by his love and his zeal. He asked him to “fight a good fight of faith, and win the eternal life to which you were called, and for which you made your noble profession of faith before many witnesses.” (2Timothy 6:11-12.)
What is the characteristic of the Master?
From the parable, the Master is generous and a gentile man. This is reflected in his acts. His initiative is to trust his servants, his money, hoping to do well. Two of his servants became ambitious, except, the last one.
Firstly, he accused his master that he is a hard man, reaping where he had not sown and gathering where he head not scattered. Upon hearing, this accusation is not a fact. This rumor caused him laziness, and took away this precious opportunity to be set free from slavery. This false accusation to his master, kept him from rising from slavery to the rank of his master. The third servant became inept to imitate his master to be ambitious and industrious.
This parable reflects our human condition that is under the slavery of sin. The kindness of God has encouraged His Son Jesus Christ to call us, and raise us from the servitude to the beatitude. Many are passive in their response to the grace of God is so poor. They are similar, to the man, who came with his son to the college. After he checked the curriculum, he asked, if, there is a short and easy one to fit his son. The Dean answered him. “ I believe I can arrange such a plan, but it all depends upon what you want for your son. When God wants to make an oak tree, He takes a hundred years. When God wants to make squash, He requires only two months.
The society lives in the condition of laziness or mediocrity. Some time the effort to do well is rare. There is no ambition even in life. What about spiritual life? Many are doing the minimum to succeed. Probably, the society is confused. I heard, “this has happened.” It is an excuse to be lazy. The person is imitating the majority. He/she is not looking to a hero, but to the society and the rumors. Probably, the information would be false and second hand.
Similarly, in our spiritual life, people listen to the rumors, instead of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These rumors ruin the person and the society.
In this Parable, the master has a vision; the two industrious servants imitated the master by having a vision like him.
The Meaning of Easter
“Tear down this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” But he was speaking about the temple of his body John 2:19& 21
By these words, John recapitulates the acts of salvation. The execution of Jesus was so harsh. His enemies destroyed his name and his body by becoming a prey to the Roman atrocity.
No doubt, His death is a tragedy of a man accused falsely to satisfy the ego of the enemies of Jesus, the betrayer and the unsecured Governor Pontius Pilate. Jalousie hatred and money lover, all together devoured him without mercy.
To dishonor Jesus they put him in the Cross. Otherwise, the blasphemer has to be stoned, like they did for Stephen the first martyr. They would like to put a curse upon him “cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree.”
Friday evening, the leaders were hurrying to burry him, and they returned to their houses to celebrate the Passover with tranquil conscience. The Sheol swallowed Jesus. With him in the grave, the disciples buried their hope, and their dream swept like a cloud before a storm. They destroyed the temple of his body and uprooted his fantasy from the mind of the people.
The courageous women returned with a rumor that the crucified rose from the dead. This news gathered the disciples to proclaim his resurrection. For his enemies, Jesus became more dangerous in his death than in his life. With this rumor, the Cross the sign of shame transformed to a sign of victory and a banner of triumph.
The resurrection of Jesus is always a mystery. Only those who believe they experience it. This mystery is hidden from human eyes. That God reveals it to those who love him. This resurrection opened their sights to remember that the enemies of Jesus destroyed his temple to build up a new one that is the Church.
Lie a grain of wheat, Jesus died to produce an abundant harvest. Those who believed in him, they received his power to have authority with word and deeds. Also, the faithful became living stones to build up the new temple. Its foundation is the body of Jesus who was crushed on the Cross. The blood and the water that came from his side became the living water that the prophet Ezekiel prophesized. This living water is the baptismal water that generates new creation for a new life.
Jesus gave his spirit to those who believe in him.
After thirty seven years of his prophecy, the Jews lost their Temple, the offerings and the priesthood. They were disappointed. Some of them became confused the lost, not just a building with its beautiful ornaments, but it is the sign of the presence of the Lord among his people. It was an opportunity for the Author of the Letter to the Hebrews to tell the Israelites that Jesus is the New Temple, the Oblation and the New High Priest.
With the New Oblation, who is the Lamb of God, it is not necessary to have animal victims and a mortal High Priest and an Altar. On the Cross, Jesus abolished the priesthood of the Temple. He is the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies by his own blood to offer on behalf of humanity a perfect oblation.
If Jesus used the heavenly sanctuary, the earthly one has to be abolished and to be transformed to a universal one.
When St. John says behold the Lamb of God, he has two meanings first a leadership and second an oblation, who took away the sin of the world. Christ is the new Adam who gave birth to the new humanity. He leads us to his Heavenly Father.
By his death, Jesus shinned the image of Adam and became the Head of the New Creation. This New Creation has born by the agonies and the death on the Cross. It is the New Adam, New Temple, new Altar and a New Priesthood according to the Order of Mechizedek.
Jesus not only restored the image of Adam, but also elevated our humanity from the image of Adam and his death, to excel and reach the immortality.
Paul declares that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, nor does the corruption inherit incorruption.” Jesus gave us the new birth to inherit the Kingdom of God. That was Jesus told Nicodemus of this new birth of water and Spirit.
The New Birth is dated on Good Friday when the old temple was shaken. Immediately the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from the top to bottom. The two temples Jesus became a corpus and the temple has a crack. It is a sign of the end.
The New Temple was built Easter Sunday with the New Creation. With the new Temple, where is the true place to worship in Samaria or in Jerusalem?
Jesus answered the Samaritan woman “believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.”
This transformation has a purpose to save human being. Most of the evangelists have encouraged man to do something .the tragedy is that many passed bay the cross of Jesus. Unfortunately, a few saw there is unusual event happened on the earth. In Mathew‘s Gospel The suncturion and the men who watch over Jesus “Truly this man was the Son of God”
In Luke he added the conversion of the thief. With St. John who is representing the faithful disciple, Mary became his mother. Those who believe in Jesus they become part of his family.
For Jeremiah it is necessary to have a new people to have a new Covenant, God will place his new law /
Ezekiel speaks of the renewal of the people by sprinkling holy water to cleanse them from their inequities. With that he will give them a new heart and a new spirit with in them. More than that, he will change their hearts.
The tragedy of Jesus on the Cross is representing the rebellious humanity. The Good Friday summarizes the heinous nature of our humanity from the compromiser Governor, the betrayer disciple, the cower body guard and the abuser high priest and the demagogues. All of them disappeared to find a faithful centurion, courageous women disciples, a faithful thief and finally a beloved disciple who became part of the immediate family of Jesus.
At three o’clock Jesus said it is finished and bowed his head, he handed over his spirit.
He signed the beatitudes of the Mountain by his blood. From that time on Jesus established the Ne Covenant.
Second Sunday after the Holy Cross.
The Dialogue is the Language of the Reason
His Sanctity, Benedict XVI paid a visit to the University of Regensburg, Germany, Where he was a professor of Theology. During it, the Roman Pontiff presented a topic was in the context of Faith and Reason. He cited something he read concerning the dialogue between Manuel II, the Byzantine Emperor, and a scholar Muslim on the subject of Christianity and Islam.
With the academic intention, the former prefect of Faith and professor as a respectful professor of theology, discussed something, the theologians are familiar with. Most of the time is controversial and against the Christian Faith. With confidence, the former professor used the same method to discuss Reason and Faith. How God revealed himself to our humanity. To do that he used the human reason. What God did is beyond our reason, but he uses it to communicate his love to us.
For example, many times, Jesus ended his speech by saying: “ Whoever has ears ought to hear.” Here, Jesus asked his hearers to use their reason to let faith penetrate the inside of them. As the result of his ministry, the crowds correlated that he is powerful by words and deeds, and he speaks with authority. Here, the people used their reason.
To destroy his reputation, his enemies used violence to take him out from the public life. They used the demagogue to crucify him. The enemies of Jesus used not the reason, but the emotion to destroy his reputation. This method has been used through the history until today.
Actually, the word Jihad has different meanings . many are questioning :
What is the Jihad is to extend the borders of the Islam by sword, or defending him by using weapons?
Is there a place for the reason? If “there is no compulsion in religion”? and how do Christians believe in Christians Jihad ?
There are many things that have been usurped by some people due to misunderstanding the original meaning of a word. For example, the word Jihad Immediately, we say this word is Islamic. Jihad was used to defend The Islam from the oppressor for the extension of the Land of the Islam. For the Muslim Jihad is the refusal of worship other God even if the oppression comes from parents. Anakabout 8 28:8 and 31:15.Disobedience of the unbelievers: Never listen to them but strive against them (25:53). The Jihad became a perfect hajj to Mecca from Sahih Albokari #2784. The Jihad also is speaking the truth before the oppression ruler (Sunan Al-Nasa’l #4298).
The Islam invites its followers to have courage to spread the message of the Jihad. It is to be proud of his Islam and the message of the Islam, and without hesitating to declare that (41:31). With that courage and steadfastness, the Koran encourages the Muslims to defend the family, the land and the people from the oppression that happens in the beginning of the Islam. The Prophet of Islam led the army against the enemies of the Islam. He was wounded and he never gave up to the end of his life.
In the land of the Islam, the Islam teaches to remove the crocked people from power because God hates the crocked. The Islam has to protect the land, the people from other religions, therefore many war against the non Muslims in Mecca and in Medina. And in the end of the first century of the Islam, all the religions were abolished in the places of its birth. For example, Mecca was the place of prayer of all religions and has been protected by forbidding the non-muslins to touch the land of Mecca. Before The Islam, Mecca was tolerant, and after the Islam, the place if for the Islam. The Jihad is an elastic word that had different meanings and interpretations.
The Jihad And The Jihad Al Islamic and The Jihad on behalf of God, The Islam and the Muslims have nothing of the original meaning of The Jihad. Through the rigidity of the Islam, many Muslims refused the obedience of the Law and the blood; they look to a personal struggle to purify the senses and arrive to receive the Gift of God. This movement we call “Soffy”. The Christian term is mystic; and Christianity has May who is living the Experience of God. The Syriac and The Greek tradition are using the same word AGONA
The etymologic of the word:
Agon: the ceremony of awarding The Dexter persons such as actors, musicians, poets and artists;
The reward of the struggler who worked very hard to produce a perfect Job, Dexter Job.
The fruit of the striving, working and paying their time to achieve a fine job is a reward. The people are appreciative to recognize them and their talents. Here the word according Webster Dictionary
Agonize – 1- to suffer extreme pain or violet anguish.
2- To put a great effort of any kind
3- to distress with extreme pain and torture
Agonized: (adjective) involving or accompanied by agony, or severe struggle. An agonized
The word is a Christian word used in the Gospels, St. Paul, St. Jude, Acts:
Returning to the speech, In the academic context, there is no place for the demagogue to have objection to stop the reason for research the truth. Many Catholic universities refuse the ecclesiastic control over their teachings. The faith appealing the reason of human being. Controlling the research is stopping it and repeating what the Church inherited without dialogue with the scholars and the new generation who are seeking the truth. What has happened in the Islamic world is using the emotional people to answer the Pope.
The surprise is no one answered the Pope academically. They asked him to apologue public ally and what he said is wrong.
Second, even though, Benedict has the power of the infallibility, what the pope said, is not a dogmatic teaching of the Church. Therefore, what he said is not infallible. Anyone could answer him and, rectify what is wrong.
Third, the Islam faced the same problem that the Christians faced after they moved from Jerusalem to Antioch, and the whole world. They started using the Hellenistic Civilization, and the philosophical concepts to express their faith to the new society. The division among the Christians comes from Hellenistic Philosophy. The same situation had the Islam after his settlement in the Middle East and Spain. He discovered the importance of the philosophy, an especially with Aristotle. The Philosophers were persecuted because of their new ideas. The most influenced one in the Western Christianity was Evrowest who had disciples in University of Paris during the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas. The Angelic Teacher was occupied by defending the Christian Faith from Evrowest, the Arabic Philosopher.
Finally, the dialogue is the language of reason. Therefore, violence is begotten violence, death and distractions. However, the peaceful dialogue united Europe after hundreds of years of using violence to unify it. It is impossible to tame the Islamic world by using violence against it. Let the language of reason dominate our dialogue instead of using violence.
Instead to use violence to restitute the honor of the Islam, we are waiting for a scholar to respond properly to the Former Prefect of Faith.
Fr. Ghattas Khoury